Dylan once told me that I shouldn’t place so much emphasis on words. That I am who I want to be. That I can identify however I want, that ‘lesbian’ can mean whatever I want it to. After mulling this over for some time I then asked them why, if words are meaningless and you can be who you want, Dylan was contemplating changing their pronoun to ‘they’. Why not keep it as ‘she’ for convenience and ease of speech if it doesn’t mean anything? Dylan would know who she/they are on the inside, isn’t that all that matters? I think it was at this point that Dylan suddenly really understood my attachment to my words and why it was affecting me.
I know that for me I never thought about my identity specifically until large parts of myself seemed in jeopardy as a reflection of my relationship as my partner transitioned.
Looking back I realise that coming out as a lesbian was definitely a huge step forward in recognising my identity as I suddenly felt so much more comfortable, and like I had finally found my community in the strong gay and lesbian friends that I made. I never actively thought about this however, it just happened and it felt right.
When Dylan came out as gender neutral I suddenly realised how much these identity related words really meant to me. Lesbian. A woman who loves women. Me. I am still the same and this identity still fits me but I felt that All of this was compromised by Dylan’s new found sense of identity. That whilst they came into their own, I lost me in their reflection. As Dylan transitioned into a new word that fit them more accurately, I felt forcibly pushed into a new identity that certainly did not fit me. I struggled even more because there wasn’t even a word for this new identity. If I am a woman dating a gender neutral human then what am I? What word fits me? What category do I slot into? What community is mine? I felt there was no answer and I was extremely saddened by this, and felt very alone. To be totally honest it is something that I still struggle with.
Other words that I feel I’ve lost are wife and mother. Not for me of course, but for my potential future family. Again, until they were no longer relevant I didn’t realise how much emphasis I placed on my future as part of a ‘2 mum family’ with my ‘wife’. This is where I saw myself fitting, how I thought I would identify myself within the myriad of different family structures, how I envisioned fitting into a community. I cried when I realised that I would not be able to use wife in the future- how will I readily identify that I am married to my partner, and not just in a long term relationship? I have no answers to this and still feel saddened that all of my friends will be able to use these words so easily, without a second thought, and yet I will not have them.
Whilst I recognise that identity is what you make it, and that I can still call myself a lesbian if that is how I feel, I also have a deep seated sense of being a fake. If I’m not dating a woman then can I truly call myself a lesbian? Well, in reality I can do whatever I like, but I feel like society (whoever that is, since it’s certainly not my friends and family!) will judge me as no longer a real and valid lesbian. Like I am somehow less than. I’m not sure if this says more about me or about societal emphasis on labelling.
When I have cried to friends and family about my loss of ‘lesbian relationship’ and ‘same sex family’ their response has been ‘but Emma, you will have a healthy relationship and a happy family, and that’s the important part.’ I obviously agree. I understand their point and I would have said the same to anyone else who asked me before I found myself in this situation. I tell myself this now as well because I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I have a beautiful, intelligent, funny, supportive and kind partner and we love each other. Whilst this will always remain a true fact it does not negate the fact that my sense of self is not as strong and confident as it once was.
Whilst I believe my grievances are real and I have felt my loss of these words acutely I have come to realise the importance in accepting that this is my experience and mine alone. This new identity that I am wearing may be invisible to many around me, however I have felt it. It is not the way others view me and my identity has not necessarily shifted in the eyes of my friends, family, or even the LGBTI community. But it has to me.
In this way I know that once I have rebuilt my own sense of conviction that my identity is valid I will be once again confident and comfortable in myself. Whilst I work on this, I can at least sit comfortably in the knowledge that although my words are a little confused, I am one of the lucky ones.